books about socialist futures

UrlOwen Hatherley at The Guardian:

Although it is a long time since anyone bar the neoliberal right believed that history was on their side, it is always nice to feel that you have a usable past. For much of the left, this has been a difficult matter. The 20th-century experiences of “really existing socialism” are understandably rather forbidding, and those of social democracy, though often fondly recalled, are just a little too conformist and mainstream. If there is a rock on which the fissile contemporary left might all agree to build itself on, it is the two-month-long Paris Commune of 1871, that bloodily suppressed, chaotic and radically democratic experiment in municipal anarcho-communism.

In the geography of David Harvey, the philosophy of Alain Badiou or the revolutionary heritage guidebooks of Eric Hazan, the Commune is the culmination of the French revolution, a “Universal Republic” whose ambitions were as expansive as its existence was brief. Kristin Ross’s recent Communal Luxury, for instance, tried to wrest the Commune out of the history of communism or the French left, instead tracing an unusual, intriguing line from the ideas of the Commune’s self-educated artisans, to those of figures such asWilliam Morris and Peter Kropotkin, who were inspired by their acts to reassess their entire approach to art, nature and politics. According to Ross, “the world of the communards” – migratory lives, precarious work, insecure housing – “is much closer to us than that of our parents”. These two books about celebrated communards, however, deal in myths and legends.

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